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The answer of the governor to Depeau's letter, three days after, was as extraordinary as the letter itself.
He informed the agent of the French minister, of the "charge" he had received from the secretary of state, in the month of August preceding, in nearly the very words of the secretary himself, and he only added, "to which charge I must pay that attention which my present situation obliges me.”
This answer, no doubt, satisfied the French emissaries, and others who saw it, they had nothing to fear from the governor of Kentucky. The project which now began to be developed, was, to raise two thousand men, under French authority; and for this purpose, French commissions were distributed and received among the citizens of that state. George Rogers Clark, who, had been a revolutionary officer, agreed to command the expedition, and issued proposals for raising troops. In these he styled himself, "major general in the mies of France, and commander in chief of the revolutionary legions on the Mississippi.
The proposals were, "for raising volunteers for the reduction of the Spanish posts on the Mississippi, for opening the trade of that river, and giving freedom to its inhabitants, &c."
The pay and the share of plunder was also settled. All who served in the expedition were entitled to one thousand acres of land— those who would engage for one year, to have two thousand-and those who served two years, or during the war with France, were to have three thousand acres of any unappropriated lands that might be conquered-the officers in proportion, and pay as other French troops. All plunder to be divided according to the cus
"As some strange reports has reached my ears, that your excellence has positive orders to arrest all citizens inclining to our assistance, and as my remembrance know by your conduct, in justice you will satisfy me in this uncommon request.
"Please let me know, as I shall not make my supply till your excellence please to honor me with a small answer.
"I am your well wisher in remaining for the French cause, a true citizen democrat. CHARLE DEPEAU. "Postcript.---Please to participate some of these handbills, to that noble society of democrats; I also enclose a paper from Pittsburgh."---H. Marshall's History of Kentucky, vol. 2, p. 100.
tom of war. Those who preferred money to land, were to receive one dollar per day.*
Governor Shelby, in his answer to the letter of the secretary of state of the 29th of August, dated the 5th of October, referring to the supposed enterprise from Kentucky, says, "I think it my duty to take this early opportunity to assure you, that I shall be particularly attentive to prevent any attempts of that nature from this country. I am well persuaded, at present, none such is in contemplation in this state. The citizens of Kentucky possess too just a sense of the obligations they owe the general government, to embark in any enterprise that would be so injurious to the United States." After these assurances of co-operation, what must have been the surprise of the president, on receiving the following letter from the same governor, dated the 13th of January, 1794. "After the date of my last letter to you," he says to the secretary of state, "I received information that a commission had been sent to general Clarke, with powers to name and commission other officers, and to raise a body of men; no steps having been taken by him, (as far as come to my knowledge,) to carry this plan into execution, I did not conceive it was either proper or necessary for me to do any thing in the business.
"Two Frenchmen, La Chaise and Depeau, have lately come into this state; I am told they declare publicly, they are in daily expectation of receiving a supply of money, and that as soon as they do receive it, they shall raise a body of men and proceed with them down the river. Whether they have any sufficient reason to expect to get a supply, or any serious intention of applying it in that manner, if they do receive it, I can form no opinion.” After requesting the president to give him full and explicit direc tions as to the steps he wished taken, to prevent the contemplated expedition, he added, "I have great doubts, even if they do attempt to carry their plan into execution, (provided they manage their business with prudence,) whether there is any legal authority to restrain or punish them, at least before they have actually
* H. Marshall's History of Kentucky, vol. 2, pp. 100, 102, and 103.
accomplished it. For if it is lawful for any one citizen of this state to leave it, it is equally so for any number of them to do it. It is also lawful for them to carry with them any quantity of provisions, arms, and ammunition; and if the act is lawful in itself, there is nothing but the particular intention with which it is done that can possibly make it unlawful; but I know of no law which inflicts a punishment on intention only, or any criterion by which to decide what would be sufficient evidence of that intention, if it was a proper subject of legal censure.
"I shall upon all occasions, be averse to the exercise of any power which I do not consider myself as being clearly and explicitly invested with, much less would I assume a power to exercise it against men who I consider as friends and brethren, in favor of a man who I view as an enemy and a tyrant. I shall also feel but little inclination to take an active part in punishing or restraining any of my fellow citizens for a supposed intention only, to gratify or remove the fears of the minister of a prince, who openly withholds from us, an invaluable right, and who secretly instigates against us a most savage and cruel enemy.
"But whatever may be my private opinion as a man, as a friend to liberty, an American citizen, and an inhabitant of the western waters, I shall at all times hold it as my duty to perform whatever may be constitutionally required of me as governor of Kentucky, by the president of the United States."*
This letter precluded all expectation of aid against the meditated hostile expedition, from the state authorities of Kentucky. The president, therefore, on the 24th of March, 1794, issued his own proclamation, apprizing the people at the west of the unlawful project, and warning them of the consequences of engaging in it. He, about the same time, directed general Wayne to establish a strong military post at fort Massac, on the Ohio, and gave him orders to prevent by force, if necessary, all hostile movements down that river. Soon after these orders were known, an address, "to the inhabitants of western America," supposed to
* American State Papers, vol. 2, pp. 37, 39, 40.
have originated from one of the democratic societies, appeared in the gazettes, in which the people at the west, were told that "the time is come when we ought to relinquish our claim to those blessings, proffered to us by nature, or endeavor to obtain them at every hazard. The principles of our confederation have been totally perverted by our Atlantic brethren. It is a fact incontestable, that they have endeavored to deprive us of all that can be important to us as a people.
"To you then, inhabitants of the west! is reserved the display of those virtues, once the pride and boast of America, uncontaminated with Atlantic luxury-beyond the reach of European influence, the pampered vultures of commercial countries have not found access to your retreat. A noble and just occasion presents itself to assert your rights; and with your own, perhaps establish those of thousands of your fellow mortals.
"Reflect that you may be the glorious instruments in the hands of Providence, of relieving from the galling chains of slavery, your brethren of Louisiana."
The author of this address, alluding to the proclamation of the president, and his orders to general Wayne, says, "before I close this address, I cannot but observe with what indignation must the citizens of Kentucky view the conduct of the general government, towards them in particular. In answer to their decent and spirited exertions, they receive, instead of assurances of relief from oppression, denunciations from the executive; and are held up to public view, as the disturbers of the peace of America. And a miserable fragment of the mighty legions of the United States, is destined to awe the hosts of freemen who seek but their right."*
Previous to this address, the president had informed the gov érnor of Kentucky, that negociations with Spain were pending, and that every exertion was making to bring them to a close, and to secure the free navigation of the Mississippi. This extraordinary enterprise was not finally relinquished, until it was disavow
* H, Marshall's History of Kentucky, vol. 2, pp. 118, 119.
ed by the successor of Genet, and the French commissions were recalled.
This reiterated violation of the national sovereignty, by a foreign minister, was no longer to be endured. The proceedings of the legislature of South Carolina, were laid before congress by the president, on the 15th of January, 1794; and he soon after, determined to hold no further intercourse with Mr. Genet, and had prepared a message to congress on the subject. The news of his recall prevented the necessity of presenting it.
The president had not only to suffer the mortification of seeing himself thus insulted, the authority of the laws outraged, and the ment of his country usurped by a foreign minister; but also to endure the painful reflection, that this conduct was encouraged and supported by many of his fellow citizens.
The manner in which the new minister of the French republic was received at Charleston, and on his way to the seat of government, manifested the deep interest felt by the American people in the cause of France. On his first arrival at Philadelphia, and even before he was presented to the president, or acknowledged as a public minister, he received a congratulatory address from a number of the inhabitants of that city, previously prepared by a committee appointed for that purpose, and to which he returned an answer.
From these manifestations in favor of the French cause, Mr. Genet believed the American people were ready to make common cause with the republic.
Situated as the United States were at that period, with a government new, untried, and powerfully opposed, without a single ship of war, burdened with debt, embarrassed with serious disputes with two of the most powerful European nations, and harrassed with an Indian war, it would seem impossible for any one even to doubt the wisdom and policy of the measures adopted by the president and his cabinet. Yet soon after the proclamation appeared, not only its justice and policy was disputed, but the power of the president to issue it denied.